Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Word Prompts at the Writing Class

(Notes from the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers continue...)

JD's prompt: Think of your foremost fear. Phobia. What are you afraid of? Write an example and attempt to trace it to a childhood incident if you can.

I wrote:

My greatest fear is the death of my children. They're both in their 20s, both intelligent, cautious, capable, imaginative. But I worry. Four years ago, a phone call from the FHP awoke us. My son's best friend was dead in a car wreck. 18 years old. I have not gotten over that and I don't think I ever will.


Phobia? Snakes. We lived by the woods in a rural area with a creek that cut through our front yard when I was a kid. Snakes every summer. Moccasins. Rattlers. Diamondbacks. King Snakes. Corals. We killed snakes by the bootfuls every year. Chopped with a shovel. Shot with a rifle. Our dogs cornered them. Our cat stalked them. Too many times, I ran right up on them at play. Now I have nightmares about infestations of snakes. The only good snake is a dead one. Just yesterday, my wife went out in our yard to water her garden and was about to sit on a little rolling tool box on the lawn — and there was a pit-nosed snake curled under it, just the tip of its tail showing. I split that thing in three pieces with a shovel before tossing it over the fence.


My fear is the lurking danger. The one you don't see coming, that takes your loved one in an instant. That doesn't give you a chance to say goodbye.

JD tells us: "Don't be afraid of failure. All works of art are failures. All we can do is try to fail better next time."

Writing is patience. Diligence. Tenacity. It can be a learned craft; the more difficult skill to learn is storytelling.

As fiction writers, we write about the things we don't understand. And we don't understand ourselves sometimes. Writing can be therapy.

We don't offer answers. We ask questions.

Fiction allows us to shape our troubles, fiction being defined as "to shape."

JD's prompt: Write about the memory suggested by this next word:
"Photograph."

I (knowing even then that my first thought was triggered by the previous prompt) wrote:

It's black and white, the color was leeched by a setting on the digital camera. I'm seated on a stool in the kitchen of my home. She's hugging me, caught under the crook of my right arm, her scented hair soft against my jaw, her cheek against my neck. I'm looking directly at the camera. I don't recall who was taking the photo now. All I remember any more is the sense of loss. She was leaving for college soon, moving away in a few days. It was Christmas week and we were making cookies, having a holiday party and goodbye party all in one. Two months later, she would be dead, but I knew everything was changing even then.

JD's TIPS:
  • Notice everything. You cannot twist the fact that you don't know.
  • Invent.
  • Stop before you're finished. If you're working on an ongoing piece, then stop when you know what the next line will be; you'll have a place to begin tomorrow.
Next time: Flash fiction, obituary and myth.
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